Go, Inqy, Go! - Political contributions and the Parking Authority

I love the way THE INQUIRER is pounding the quote-unquote "Philadelphia" Parking Authority. City GOP benefits from Parking Authority. It needs it. The story starts off promisingly:

Though the Philadelphia Parking Authority has fallen short in its promised funding for city schools, it certainly has been a boon for the Philadelphia Republican Party.

Authority employees and consultants have contributed at least $214,000 to the Republican City Committee since 2001, according to an Inquirer analysis of campaign finance data.

The contributions this year have reached at least $33,210, or more than 14 percent of the party's total.

I wonder if that's the single biggest cadre of funders? Of course, "cadre of funders" gets hard to define for a newspaper article, but still I wonder.

My humble suggestion to Philadelphia reporters pursuing these questions: the story I'd like to see is some attempt to sort out how much money could, potentially, be going to schools and how, exactly, the law designates that they are supposed to determine that figure.

This schools issue is a big part of why I want to lambast the PPA so badly. If it were just an issue of over-spending and patronage, I would care but I wouldn't care as much. The simple fact is that the PPA is making our city harder to live in by tightening up parking rules, but they aren't delivering on the promised benefit of that: getting some more money into education.

Pound them, Inqy! Pound them!!!

Inky as 'hard-right' newspaper?

It's articles like this one which make me doubt the occasional accusations made that the Inquirer is morphing into e hard-right newspaper. Did they, for some mysterious reason known only to Brian Tierny, add Little Ricky Santorum to the editorial page? Sadly, yes. But, overall, I think that the quality of local reporting has generally gone up since the sale from Knight-Ridder to (briefly) McClatchy, + then to PNH.

All this being said, the best thing which could happen to the Inky would be for another daily newspaper to appear to challenge it. After all, the worst thing to happen to the Inky in the past 30 years was the death of the Bulletin. After that, and when Roberts left the helm afterwards, the Inky very quickly declined from one of the country's best newspapers- a veritable Pulitzer mill at its peak- to a very mediocre daily, one unfavorably compared to the Baltimore Sun. If the Bulletin were to make a real return- the old, moderate Bulletin, not the fascist rag bearing its name today- this could perhaps provide the prod which the Inky clearly needs to improve beyond mere competence.

My family spent the holiday w/my wife's sister's family in suburban DC, + I was, again, reminded how much I miss having the Washington Post around.

-Z

let's not go too far

The Washington Post is the best paper in America with the most awesome daily price of all. I loved living there.

As for the Inquirer... well... I mean, this is the sort of issue both the right and the left can get ticked about. This isn't ideological... it just sounds like corruption or at least shadiness. So, I don't know that we can quite let them off the hook yet, but this is certainly a great effort they are running here. They are not letting it go.

That said, a competitor would be great. A really really strong on-line competitor might be enough, but no one has put up the bucks for a challenger like that yet.

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The Russellian Incorporated Innovations Corporation
Lefty Homilies

Go, Helen Gym, Go!!!

I just heard Helen Gym on NPR calling the PPA out for holding an excess of reserves. She really sound like she had her message tight. It was awesome. Plus, it's great to hear that people showed up in numbers at a PPA meeting yesterday. Good stuff!

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The Russellian Incorporated Innovations Corporation
Lefty Homilies

Parking agency rebuffs schools plea

This article is not exactly on topic, but it is related, Parking agency rebuffs schools plea.

We made a commitment to the School District of Philadelphia, a promise that fines, collections and other revenues would go to the district. Today we make good on that promise," Perzel said at the event.

The day before, a Perzel spokeswoman told the Philadelphia Daily News: "We made a promise to direct revenue to the school district and . . . we are making good on that promise.

Parking Authority -- your post is 100% on point

Thanks for posting this. I liked this point further in that same article:

Despite undergoing robust revenue growth, the authority has failed to increase its profits to the point where the schools get a share of the cut. By agreement between the city and state, City Hall receives the first $25 million in profits that the authority makes from tickets, booting and many towings. Anything above $25 million goes to the schools.

With the exception of 2004, however, the authority has not come close to clearing that $25 million hurdle.

All you have to look at is the incentives. The founders of the feast want jobs for good party loyalists. There's no incentive for them to cut costs and feed profits into the schools. There is every incentive to expand their salaries and their fiefdom. Nothing is pushing them to save money and get cash to the schools, so they are not.

Further great coverage. I love it. Now if someone would just dig into what the real rules are around who and how they can give money to the schools.

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The Russellian Incorporated Innovations Corporation
Lefty Homilies

Parking Authority Rules on Giving to School District

As far as I can ascertain, the rules governing the Parking Authority are largely contained in Act 22 of 2001, (SB 780 2001). The portion of the Bill germane to the Parking Authority is below. The entire bill can be found at http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&sessYr=2001&sessInd=0&billBody=S&billTyp=B&billNbr=0780&pn=1186. The section about funding to the School District is in red (highlight added for this post). The lack of political will, the lack of a required minimum amount of required funding to the School District, the federal law requiring use of the Authority's earnings from its airport garages to be reused at the airport (apparently a reference to Title 49 United States Code Section 47101(b)), the apparent lack of audits, and political patronage in terms of wasting financial resources appear to be the key causes for a lack of funding from the Parking Authority to the School District. Another thought is that I would not be surprised if the Parking Authority was not properly allocating administrative costs correctly, in other words, the Authority might not be allocating enough administrative costs to the airport operations, thereby having a larger profit at the airport and a lower profit in the other areas that are eligible for developing an allocation to the School District. This is all the more reason for an audit if one is not being done already.

(CHAPTER 55 PARKING AUTHORITIES)
§ 5508.1. SPECIAL PROVISIONS FOR AUTHORITIES IN CITIES OF THE
18 FIRST CLASS.
19 (A) SCOPE.--THIS SECTION APPLIES ONLY TO CITIES OF THE FIRST
20 CLASS.
21 (B) INITIAL.--BEGINNING ON THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS
22 CHAPTER, THE POWERS OF EACH AUTHORITY SHALL BE EXERCISED BY A
23 BOARD COMPOSED OF NOT LESS THAN FIVE NOR MORE THAN 11 MEMBERS.
24 (C) SUBSEQUENT.--BEGINNING JUNE 1, 2006, THE BOARD SHALL BE
25 COMPOSED OF SIX MEMBERS.
26 (D) RESIDENCE.--IN ALL CASES, BOARD MEMBERS MUST BE
27 RESIDENTS OF THE CITY.
28 (E) APPOINTMENT.--
29 (1) THE GOVERNOR SHALL APPOINT SIX ADDITIONAL MEMBERS OF
30 THE BOARD.
20010S0780B1186 - 25 -

1 (2) GUBERNATORIAL APPOINTMENTS SHALL BE MADE AS FOLLOWS:
2 TWO UPON THE GOVERNOR'S OWN DISCRETION, TWO FROM A LIST OF AT
3 LEAST THREE NOMINEES PREPARED AND SUBMITTED TO THE GOVERNOR
4 BY THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE AND TWO FROM A
5 LIST OF AT LEAST THREE NOMINEES PREPARED AND SUBMITTED TO THE
6 GOVERNOR BY THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
7 (3) THE GOVERNOR SHALL SELECT MEMBERS FROM THE LISTS
8 PROVIDED FROM THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE AND THE
9 SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES WITHIN 30 DAYS OF
10 RECEIPT OF EACH LIST OR MAY REQUEST ONE SUBSTITUTE LIST OF
11 NOMINEES FROM EITHER OR BOTH THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE
12 SENATE AND THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. IF A
13 SUBSTITUTE LIST REQUESTED BY THE GOVERNOR IS NOT SUBMITTED
14 WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE REQUEST, THE GOVERNOR MAY, AT HIS
15 DISCRETION, APPOINT BOARD MEMBERS TO POSITIONS FOR WHICH
16 SUBSTITUTE LISTS OF NOMINEES WERE NOT SUBMITTED.
17 (4) IN THE EVENT THAT THE GOVERNOR FAILS TO SELECT A
18 MEMBER FROM AN ORIGINAL LIST OF NOMINEES WITHIN 30 DAYS OF
19 THE RECEIPT OF THE LIST AND FAILS TO REQUEST A SUBSTITUTE
20 LIST OR SHOULD THE GOVERNOR FAIL TO SELECT A MEMBER FROM A
21 SUBSTITUTE LIST WITHIN 30 DAYS OF RECEIPT OF THE LIST, THE
22 LEGISLATIVE PRESIDING OFFICER WHO PREPARED THE LIST MAY
23 APPOINT MEMBERS TO SERVE ON THE BOARD.
24 (F) TERMS.--
25 (1) INITIAL APPOINTMENTS SHALL BE FOR A TERM BEGINNING
26 ON THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS CHAPTER AND EXPIRING JUNE 1,
27 2002.
28 (2) SUBSEQUENT TO THE INITIAL TERMS, THE TERMS OF THE
29 MEMBERS SHALL BE STAGGERED. FOR TERMS BEGINNING JUNE 1, 2002:
30 (I) MEMBERS APPOINTED FROM THE LIST OF NOMINEES
20010S0780B1186 - 26 -

1 PREPARED BY THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE SHALL
2 SERVE EIGHT-YEAR TERMS, ENDING JUNE 1, 2010;
3 (II) MEMBERS APPOINTED FROM THE LIST OF NOMINEES
4 PREPARED BY THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
5 SHALL SERVE NINE-YEAR TERMS, ENDING JUNE 1, 2011; AND
6 (III) MEMBERS APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR AT HIS OWN
7 DISCRETION SHALL SERVE TEN-YEAR TERMS, ENDING JUNE 1,
8 2012.
9 (3) AFTER THE INITIAL TERMS UNDER PARAGRAPH (2), THE
10 GOVERNOR SHALL, NOT SOONER THAN 60 DAYS NOR LATER THAN 30
11 DAYS PRIOR TO JUNE 1 IN EACH YEAR IN WHICH VACANCIES ARE DUE
12 TO OCCUR, APPOINT MEMBERS OF THE BOARD FOR TERMS OF TEN YEARS
13 TO SUCCEED THE MEMBERS WHOSE TERMS EXPIRE ON THE FIRST DAY OF
14 JUNE NEXT SUCCEEDING, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE APPOINTMENT
15 PROCEDURES PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (E). IF THE VACANCIES ARE
16 FOR MEMBERS SELECTED FROM A LIST SUBMITTED BY A LEGISLATIVE
17 PRESIDING OFFICER, THE GOVERNOR SHALL REQUEST A LIST OF
18 NOMINEES FROM THAT OFFICER NOT LATER THAN 90 DAYS PRIOR TO
19 THE DATE THE VACANCIES ARE SCHEDULED TO OCCUR.
20 (G) REMOVAL.--EXCEPT AS AUTHORIZED IN THIS SUBSECTION, NO
21 BOARD MEMBER MAY BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE DURING A TERM. THE
22 GOVERNOR MAY, UPON CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE OF MISFEASANCE
23 OR MALFEASANCE IN OFFICE, REMOVE A BOARD MEMBER PRIOR TO THE
24 EXPIRATION OF THE TERM. THE GOVERNOR SHALL THEN PROVIDE THE
25 BOARD MEMBER SO REMOVED WITH A WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE REASONS
26 FOR REMOVAL.
27 (H) VACANCIES.--IF A VACANCY OCCURS PRIOR TO THE COMPLETION
28 OF THE TERM OF OFFICE OF A MEMBER APPOINTED FROM LISTS OF
29 NOMINEES SUBMITTED BY A LEGISLATIVE PRESIDING OFFICER, THE
30 GOVERNOR SHALL REQUEST A LIST OF NOMINEES FROM THAT OFFICER
20010S0780B1186 - 27 -

1 WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE OCCURRENCE OF THE VACANCY AND PROCEED TO
2 MAKE THE VACANCY APPOINTMENT PURSUANT TO THE PROCEDURES OF THIS
3 SECTION. ALL VACANCY APPOINTMENTS SHALL BE FOR THE BALANCE OF
4 THE UNEXPIRED TERM.
5 (I) CONTINUATION.--THE MEMBERS OF THE AUTHORITY IN EXISTENCE
6 ON THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS CHAPTER SHALL CONTINUE IN OFFICE
7 UNTIL THEIR TERMS OF OFFICE EXPIRE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ACT
8 UNDER WHICH THE MEMBERS WERE APPOINTED. AT THE EXPIRATION OF
9 THAT TERM, THE POSITION ON THE BOARD SHALL BE ABOLISHED. THE
10 TERM OF A BOARD MEMBER SERVING ON THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS
11 CHAPTER SHALL NOT EXTEND BEYOND JUNE 1, 2006. IF A VACANCY
12 OCCURS IN ANY OF THE BOARD POSITIONS OF INCUMBENTS DESCRIBED IN
13 THIS SUBSECTION PRIOR TO THE EXPIRATION OF THE TERM, THE VACANCY
14 SHALL NOT BE FILLED; AND THE POSITION AT THAT TIME SHALL BE
15 ABOLISHED.
16 (J) SUCCESSION.--EXCEPT AS PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (I),
17 MEMBERS SHALL HOLD OFFICE UNTIL THEIR SUCCESSORS HAVE BEEN
18 APPOINTED AND QUALIFIED, AND THEY MAY SUCCEED THEMSELVES.
19 (K) COMPENSATION.--THE CHAIR SELECTED UNDER SUBSECTION (L)
20 SHALL RECEIVE $50,000 PER ANNUM, AND THE OTHER MEMBERS SHALL
21 RECEIVE $200 PER MEETING FOR THEIR SERVICES. BOARD MEMBERS SHALL
22 BE ENTITLED TO NECESSARY EXPENSES, INCLUDING TRAVEL EXPENSES,
23 INCURRED IN THE DISCHARGE OF DUTIES.
24 (L) OFFICERS AND STAFF.--WHEN THE SIX ADDITIONAL MEMBERS
25 HAVE BEEN APPOINTED AND QUALIFIED PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION, THE
26 MEMBERS OF THE BOARD SHALL SELECT FROM AMONG THEMSELVES A CHAIR,
27 VICE-CHAIR AND SUCH OTHER OFFICERS AS THE BOARD MAY DETERMINE.
28 THE BOARD MAY EMPLOY A SECRETARY, AN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ITS OWN
29 COUNSEL AND LEGAL STAFF AND SUCH TECHNICAL EXPERTS AND SUCH
30 OTHER AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES PERMANENT OR TEMPORARY AS IT
20010S0780B1186 - 28 -

1 REQUIRES. THE BOARD MAY DETERMINE THE QUALIFICATIONS AND FIX THE
2 COMPENSATION OF THESE INDIVIDUALS.
3 (M) QUORUM.--
4 (1) SIX MEMBERS OF THE BOARD CONSTITUTE A QUORUM FOR ITS
5 MEETINGS UNTIL THE COMPOSITION OF THE BOARD IS REDUCED TO
6 NINE MEMBERS.
7 (2) AT THE TIME DURING WHICH THE BOARD IS COMPOSED OF
8 MORE THAN SEVEN MEMBERS BUT FEWER THAN TEN MEMBERS, THE
9 QUORUM FOR ITS MEETINGS IS FIVE MEMBERS.
10 (3) ONCE THE BOARD IS REDUCED TO SEVEN MEMBERS AND
11 THEREAFTER, A QUORUM FOR ITS MEETINGS IS FOUR MEMBERS.
12 (4) UNTIL THE SIX ADDITIONAL BOARD MEMBERS HAVE BEEN
13 APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR, THE QUORUM TO CONDUCT BUSINESS IS
14 THREE MEMBERS.
15 (M.1) LIABILITY.--MEMBERS OF THE BOARD SHALL NOT BE LIABLE
16 PERSONALLY ON THE BONDS OR OTHER OBLIGATIONS OF THE AUTHORITY,
17 AND THE RIGHTS OF CREDITORS SHALL BE SOLELY AGAINST SUCH
18 AUTHORITY.
19 (N) DELEGATION.--THE BOARD MAY DELEGATE TO AN AGENT OR
20 EMPLOYEE POWERS IT DEEMS NECESSARY TO CARRY OUT THE PURPOSES OF
21 THIS CHAPTER, SUBJECT TO THE SUPERVISION AND CONTROL OF THE
22 BOARD.
23 (O) MANAGEMENT.--THE BOARD HAS AUTHORITY TO MANAGE THE
24 PROPERTIES AND BUSINESS OF THE AUTHORITY AND TO PRESCRIBE, AMEND
25 AND REPEAL BYLAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE MANNER IN
26 WHICH THE BUSINESS OF THE AUTHORITY MAY BE CONDUCTED AND IN
27 WHICH THE POWERS GRANTED TO IT MAY BE EXERCISED AND EMBODIED.
28 (P) PROHIBITION.--
29 (1) EXCEPT AS SET FORTH IN PARAGRAPH (2), AN AUTHORITY
30 MAY NOT ENTER INTO ANY CONTRACT WITH ANY OTHER PARTY OR
20010S0780B1186 - 29 -

1 PROVIDE ANY ADDITIONAL EMPLOYMENT PROTECTION, INCLUDING CIVIL
2 SERVICE, TO ANY EMPLOYEE OR CLASSIFICATION OF EMPLOYEE DURING
3 THE MORATORIUM PERIOD PRESCRIBED BY PARAGRAPH (3).
4 (2) THE MORATORIUM REQUIRED BY THIS SUBSECTION SHALL NOT
5 APPLY TO THE FOLLOWING:
6 (I) CONTRACTS OR LEASES WHICH ARE SUBJECT TO
7 COMPETITIVE BIDDING PURSUANT TO SECTION 5511 (RELATING TO
8 COMPETITION IN AWARD OF CONTRACTS).
9 (II) CONTRACTS OR LEASES OF NOT MORE THAN 90 DAYS'
10 DURATION.
11 (III) CONTRACTS OR LEASES WHICH MUST BE EXECUTED
12 WITHIN THE MORATORIUM PERIOD IN ORDER TO AVOID A SERIOUS
13 IMPAIRMENT TO THE FUNCTIONING OF THE AUTHORITY IF SUCH
14 CONTRACTS ARE EXECUTED WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE SECRETARY
15 OF GENERAL SERVICES.
16 (3) THE MORATORIUM PERIOD SHALL COMMENCE ON THE
17 EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS SECTION AND SHALL TERMINATE UPON THE
18 SELECTION OF A CHAIR AFTER EACH OF THE ADDITIONAL MEMBERS HAS
19 BEEN APPOINTED AND QUALIFIED.
20 (Q) FUNDING.--DURING ITS FISCAL YEAR BEGINNING IN 2001, THE
21 AUTHORITY SHALL TRANSFER TO THE GENERAL FUND OF A SCHOOL
22 DISTRICT OF THE FIRST CLASS COTERMINOUS WITH THE PARENT
23 MUNICIPALITY THAT PORTION OF ITS RETAINED EARNINGS, NOT TO
24 EXCEED $45,000,000, WHICH WILL NOT JEOPARDIZE THE AUTHORITY'S
25 ABILITY TO MEET DEBT SERVICE PAYMENTS OR TO RETIRE OUTSTANDING
26 BONDS. IN SUBSEQUENT YEARS, THE BOARD SHALL TRANSFER THE MAXIMUM
27 AMOUNT IT DEEMS AVAILABLE FOR SUCH PURPOSE. THE PROVISIONS OF
28 SECTION 696(H)(1) OF THE ACT OF MARCH 10, 1949 (P.L.30, NO.14),
29 KNOWN AS THE PUBLIC SCHOOL CODE OF 1949, SHALL NOT APPLY TO
30 AMOUNTS TRANSFERRED TO THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE FIRST CLASS

20010S0780B1186 - 30 -

1 UNDER THIS SUBSECTION.
2 (R) DEFINITION.--AS USED IN THIS SECTION, THE TERM
3 "LEGISLATIVE PRESIDING OFFICER" MEANS:
4 (1) THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE; OR
5 (2) THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

Clarification to rules on School Funding

"The lack of political will, the lack of a required minimum amount of required funding to the School District, the federal law requiring use of the Authority's earnings from its airport garages to be reused at the airport (apparently a reference to Title 49 United States Code Section 47101(b)), the apparent lack of audits, and political patronage in terms of wasting financial resources appear to be the key causes for a lack of funding from the Parking Authority to the School District."

I think the real rules on school funding are actually contained in HB1785 which became Act 9 of 2004.

There are official audits, but minus a desk and real open books audit, they are general overviews of the Parking Authority. However, the audits indicate quite a few areas of concern like those cash reserves, some of which Parents United for Public Education is researching. For example, the Parking Authority has explained a number of those cash reserves by saying they are restricted for certain funds. However, it's questionable to us why they would then classify those as cash and cash equivalents and not have them with their own separate line item in an accounting fund.

Clearly, though, a large section of revenues can be eaten up by the Parking Authority simply rewarding itself, raising salaries, providing free cars to 20 executives (incl. a PPA spokesperson who claimed she had to be on call 24-7), out of control hiring, paying their board members (Board Chairman Joe Ashdale gets $75,000 while the other Parking Authority board members are paid $200/month), layers and layers of management, and unknown perks we can't even account for.

One of the concerns that the City needs to consider is that the Parking Authority has publicly stated funding to schools is unlikely because they never expect to meet the $25 million threshhold. In that case the City shouldn't expect to see its $25 million either. It seems that PICA would then step in and have to tell the City to redo its budget unless the Parking Authority finds that money. It's something we've considered asking for publicly, since the parents group is getting a little tired of carrying the weight publicly itself. Maybe that would get Council and others working a little harder to move on the Parking Authority.

Further Comments on School Funding

Mansei, thank you for your comments. My reading of HB 1785 (2004) is that the language in that bill is in addition to SB 780 (2001) and does not replace the language in SB 780. If this is correct, it would just somewhat confuse matters further. Besides all of the patronage and largely associated waste of resources, a key to the problem is that the Parking Authority and other PA "independent" agencies and authorities like PHEAA apparently have no one really overseeing them or monitoring them on a routine basis or with any level of detail. Rep. McGeehan's bill apparently would provide this oversight, in part by the Auditor General, which really should be overseeing all of these independent agencies and authorities in terms of fiscal monitoring. I agree with the idea of having PICA telling the City at some point to adjust its budget and presumptions of Parking Authority revenue, however, short of the political pressure that could be exerted by City Council, I see it as a Legislature issue in that the Parking Authority is under their control now.

Side comment on oversight on Parking Authority

One of the most telling stories of the Parking Authority's lack of accountability was from Ron Blount, head of the Taxi Workers Alliance. He said that he once brought Lance Haver, the Mayor's advocate and a representative from Gov. Rendell's office to appeal to the PPA board -- almost like it was a separate nation. You figure if the PPA is dismissive of the Mayor and Governor, then there has to be some sort of resolution. Hopefully McGeehan's bill can start addressing something.

By the way, call me Helen. I'm Helen Gym.

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